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National Grange President visits CT as part of nation-wide tour

By Terri Fassio

  APRIL 10, 2010 --

Connecticut welcomed National Grange President Edward L. Luttrell for a town hall style meeting and press conference where topics of interest to the Grange and its impact across the state were discussed with a standing room only audience.

The April 9th meeting saw topics discussed ranging from Grange growth, leadership training and teamwork to communications, rural advocacy and legislative efforts. Luttrell is currently visiting the Northeast states as part of a nation-wide speaking tour. The meeting was the highest single attendance thus far of his scheduled appearances.

"Every community has people looking for ways to make a difference in the lives of others," Luttrell explained.

A Sandy, Oregon native, Luttrell was elected in November 2009 to his second two-year term as National Grange President. He is a past president of the Oregon State Grange and has served on the boards of the Oregon Lands Coalition, Grange Mutual Insurance Company, and Timberland States Insurance Company.

The event, held at Hemlock Grange Hall, 7 Sage Hollow Road, Portland, CT, was overseen by Connecticut State Grange President Robert Sendewicz, a member of Redding Grange for over 30 years. Sendewicz is currently serving in his fourth year as President of the Connecticut State Grange.

Sendewicz stressed the importance of leadership training, and the impact that has on the communities who benefit from the Grange's community service work and projects. "We in Connecticut have received much training from National Grange and we are using what we have learned to aid our Community Granges to improve themselves and we will continue to use the National program to train more leaders."

Connecticut's Department of Agriculture Commissioner, F. Philip Prelli, also spoke at the event. Prelli discussed the value of communications for not only the Grange, but other organizations, and how the manner of communicating has evolved with the emergence of social media such as Facebook, Twitter and YouTube. He stressed the importance of not only talking to others, but in listening as well.

A former State Representative, in 1995 Prelli was named Connecticut Farm Bureau Legislator of the Year, and in 2002 he received the Farm Bureau's Agricultural Statesman Award. As a past President of the Connecticut State Grange, Prelli stressed how communications on rural-urban issues on the local and state levels can make an impact on Grange growth and sustainability. Prelli also currently serves as Secretary of the National Grange Executive Committee.

Luttrell concluded the evening by relating the National Grange battle to protect its name and trademarks from corporations. The name "Grange" has many positive connotations thanks to the work of the Grange over the last 143 years. Companies and corporations want to use the name for their own benefit and in order to protect the name, the Grange has had to spend hundreds of thousands of dollars over the years. The Grange is currently seeking legislation similar to that protecting the Red Cross, Olympics, Smokey the Bear, Boy Scouts and Girl Scouts. "Such legislation would cease the diversion of National Grange funds that would be otherwise used in supporting community service activities at the local level," Luttrell said.

With approximately 240,000 members in nearly 3000 local and state chapters across forty states, the Grange has over 60 local Grange chapters across Connecticut. Local Granges are committed to bettering their communities through service projects and family orientated activities. But it's the Grange's interest in legislative action that sets it apart from other organizations. The Connecticut State Grange, celebrating its 125th Anniversary throughout 2010, has historically been an advocate for rural quality of life issues, farm programs, rural economic development, environmental and consumer issues, and similar topics.

Connecticut's agriculture industry is finding ways to sustain and make an impact on the state's economy, boasting $2 billion in annual economic output and over 50,000 jobs. There are more than 120 Farmers Markets in 97 towns across the state, as well as more than 40 Agricultural Fairs statewide, a third of which are Grange sponsored.

Yet the Grange organization has evolved along with the times. Health care, education, the importance of food safety, the recent Connecticut legislation regarding locally grown and produced foods, and communications access are just a few of the Grange's current areas of involvement, as well as legislation designed to assure strong and viable communities.

More information on the National Grange can be found at www.NationalGrange.org.


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